You’ve probably seen these on the subway.
It’s a poster for the Downtown Urban Theater Festival, an upcoming showcase of plays born and bred in major cities. The design – soon to be plastered all over the five boros – was created by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, an artist, a designer, and a friend of mine. You see, I had a reading coming up of a play I’d written that had to do with a Puerto Rican comic book artist. When I needed a compelling image to sell the reading, I turned to Edgardo – a real life Puerto Rican comic book artist – for help. And boy did he go above and beyond the call of duty.
Now, with the launch of his new studio, Edgardo’s on to bigger and better things.
Congratulations on the launch of Studio Edgardo. How’d you get that off the ground? What’s your mission? Who’s on your team?
I’ve been an art director and graphic designer now for over 11 years. My clients have always recognized me as being the creative force behind the work I’ve produced, therefore I felt it was time that my name become the brand itself. I am passionate about visual arts and truly love to collaborate with as many creative people as possible. I run the studio by myself and bring together a team of illustrators, photographers, videographers, make-up artists, hair stylists, actors and writers on a project per project basis. With this new business venture I want to work with more comic book artists on non-comic book related projects. I already collaborated with Phil Jimenez (DC/Marvel), Koi Turnbull (DC/Marvel/Aspen), Le Beau Underwood (DC/Marvel), Lee Loughridge (DC/Marvel), Raul Treviño (DC/Marvel) and many more to come.
Comic books. I love them. You love them. You did the art for my play reading, and the Downtown Urban Theater Festival. Why comics?
Growing up poor in the South Bronx, the only art accessible to me was from comic books. My mother bought me comics as often as she could to feed my love of art. She’d often sit with me and my brother to draw with us. By the time I was in elementary school I was already being “commissioned” by my classmates to write and draw original comic books for quarters!
Can you describe how you went about designing the superhero character in my play, El Coquí Espectacular?
I have a 9 year old son that is as passionate about comic books as I am. I thought that as a Puerto Rican child born and raised in Brooklyn, how amazing would it be to see a Puerto Rican superhero? It would be a great way to teach him about our heritage and culture. I looked at the vejigante mask in my apartment and loved that it was so colorful and dynamic, it already looked like a superhero costume. I started my research and looked through various comic book covers and came across a cover that my good friend Phil Jimenez drew for Marvel. I used his cover as inspiration to draw my character, then I asked him to ink my penciled illustration to really give it an authentic feel. I finally had José Gutiérrez Rivera, an illustrator and digital painter from Puerto Rico that I have collaborated with many times before, to color the piece… and BAM! Puerto Rican Superhero!
From one fan to another, what’s it like for Latinos in comic books, both creators and characters?
Growing up the only Latino name I saw in the masthead of comic books was George Perez, and he also created Marvel’s first Puerto Rican superhero the White Tiger. That was okay, but I actually didn’t search for Latino heroes growing up. The characters were always universal to me. I was Peter Parker. I studied at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. However, as an adult I found it amazing at how many Latinos were behind the characters. As a freelance writer, I was able to meet Joe Quesada (Chief Creative Officer at Marvel) and Axel Alonso (Editor in Chief at Marvel), who I still keep in touch with today. Since I did two art shows with Marvel, I have made friends with many Latino artists all over the world, from Humberto Ramos in Mexico, Leonardo Manco in Argentina to Carlos Pacheco in Spain.
How’d you get involved in the DUTF? Do you get contacted for a lot of theater work, or is this just a coincidence?
When I was a community organizer at El Puente, I produced a lot of poetry and hip-hop concerts. Via these events I would meet many artists and festivals and this lead to the start of my freelance career as an art director. I rebranded DUTF many years ago and have been working with them on various productions. When I started Studio Edgardo, Marc Newell, the Executive Producer of DUTF reached out to me. He really loved the posters I designed that incorporated illustration and so he asked me to handle this year’s campaign with that in mind.
Your concept is to depict the playwrights as superheroes. How’d you arrive at their designs?
I interviewed each playwright and asked them if they were superheroes what would their powers be? What colors would their costume have? Would they have or not have a mask? Then they all overwhelmingly responded positively to them and each and every concept was different from the other. It worked out perfectly.
Are there any plays you’re particularly excited to see in the festival?
I want to see Eric-Dominique Pérez’ El Gringuito, [a play that deals with what it means to be “Puerto Rican enough”] because as you know Matt, we’re both ‘sorta-ricans.’ I also want to see Ming Peiffer’s Pornography for the People, Nelson Diaz-Marcano’s Prison Song, Anselmo Coy Martinez’ Help Wanted, Jo Shui’s True Asian Hottie and Leslie Taylor’s Buttaflysoul for President. The Rules of the World by Lavinia Roberts intrigues me because it touches on Santeria which was the subject of my first art show with Marvel’s Joe Quesada. Although, I’m really trying to be there for as much of the entire festival as possible.
Are there any places in the city where you go to feel particularly creative?
Union Square and the Lower East Side because I can pick up comic books from Forbidden Planet or St. Mark’s Comics. I love reading in the park, in a cafe and on the train. I find myself walking down subway platforms looking at the ads as if I were in a gallery. That’s why this DUTF campaign was a perfect fit for me.
I have another campaign I’ll be launching very soon for a youth conference. I’m collaborating with Raul Treviño, an artist and colorist that’s worked with both DC and Marvel. We created a pretty cool piece of art. Aside from working with clients, I want to create my own projects. One of which is a graphic novel based on an original idea I came up with last year. The other would be a documentary film because I’ve met so many amazing people over the years that I really would love to film them all having a conversation with me about how much we enjoy comic book art and culture. I want to leave a legacy for my son to look back on and say, “My Dad was pretty cool.”